1

38. Quantization of the Free Electromagnetic Field
We recall that quantum mechanics was initiated by Planck's suggestion that the energy, E, of the electromagnetic field was quantized in terms of the frequency, ω, in discrete units called photons according to E = ω. Yet up to this point we have generally regarded the electromagnetic field as a classical entity; we must therefore construct a method to quantize it. The method we will use is to rewrite the electromagnetic field so that it has the formal structure of a superposition of harmonic oscillators. We will then quantize these oscillators as if they were ordinary mechanical oscillators (Dirac 1929) In the Hamiltonian formulation of quantum mechanics the electromagnetic field enters the wave equations for particles only through the vector and scalar potentials, A, and φ. Since we will later want to couple matter fields to quantized electromagnetic fields we will formulate the quantized theory of the electromagnetic field in terms of A. We start by recalling the four Maxwell equations
! " E = 4 #\$; 1 'B !%E=& ; c 't ! " B = 0; !%B= 4# 1 'D j+ . c c 't

(38.1a-d)

Here we will assume that there are no permeable media, resulting in D = E and H = B, and that any charge or current densities are produced by explicitly accounted for electrons. Making the usual substitutions
E=– 1 !A " #\$; c !t B=#%A

(38.2a,b)

we obtain the equations
1 #2 A 1 #% ) 4, & !2A " 2 2 " ! ( ! \$ A + =" j + ' c #t* c c #t

(38.3a)

and
! 2" + 1 # (! \$ A ) = %4 &' . c #t 1 #\$ =0 c #t

(38.3b)

If we choose a gauge, the so-called Lorentz gauge, in which
!"A +

(38.4)

these equations uncouple and we are left with

QM59: Revised: 6/21/95

5b) For the remainder of this section we confine ourselves to free fields. k. t) = ! H k (t)" k e ik#r + H* k.\$ (t)e ik#r – A* .’s (38.b) and assuming a time dependence of the form e –i! k t with a frequency ! k = ck (to satisfy (38. imposing the condition that A(r.5a.b) and (38.6)). ( (38. Eq. (38. k (38.7) we require k ! A k (t) = 0 . the corresponding electric and magnetic fields are then –ik#r E(r.8) To satisfy (38.6) is a linear equation we may represent a general solution as a superposition of "normal modes" which we choose to be plane electromagnetic waves.\$ (t)e k ( ) ) –i k#r = i! !k % A k. t) is real. A k (t) and A* k (t) are complex." (t)e ik#r + E* ke k ( ) ) (38." e ik#r – A* % k (t)e c k ( –i k#r H(r.6) where instead of (38.2 1 # A 4\$ ! A" 2 2 =" j c c #t 2 2 (38.4) we have the gauge condition !"A = 0 . 9) Although A(r. (38.t) must be real our superposition will have the form –ik"r % A(r.10a) = and i –ik#r \$ k A k (t)& k. Using (38. t) = ! # A k (t)e ik"r + A* k (t)e \$ &.\$ (t)e k.4) then have a solution where φ = 0 and A satisfies 1 !2 A c 2 !t 2 – "2A = 0 (38.7) 38. t) = ! Ek.5a) and 1 \$" ! 2" # 2 = #4 %& .10b) . Expansion of the vector potential in plane waves Since (38.1. c \$t (38.2a.

t) . t) = E2 (r.13) We interpret the energy density associated with the electromagnetic field as the Hamiltonian density H!(r.11a) Pk. These new variables are chosen as Qk.! = " i# k ! A k. ! k . it is convenient to introduce two new variables. t)) d3r .3 In order to quantize the electromagnetic field." (t)sin(k \$ r) ' (.11b) from these definitions it is clear that Qk. which play the role of cannonical displacements and momenta.b) and the resulting forms into (38. A* Q – P k. as are their mechanical counterparts.14a) (E2 (r.! + Pk.! .13) into (38.! and Pk.! = Qk. ! ) 2& #k % ( (38. as originally done by Dirac. we may then write the total Hamiltonian as H(t) = 1 8! " (38." (t)cos(k \$ r) + Pk. The equations of motion of these quantities will mimic those of a harmonic oscillator for each value of k and ! in our expansion of the field.! = (4 " )1/2 & Qk. 4\$ ( (38.10a. which we do in the next subsection.! 4" ( ) ) (38. The inverse relations are ' 1\$ i A k.12b) In terms of the new variables we may rewrite (38. t) + H2 (r.! " A% k.12a) and ' i 1/2 1 \$ .! = and 1 A k. (38. t) = 4 ! k.14b) and carrying out the integral over the spatial coordinates we obtain QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 .! + A# k.! ) 2% #k ( (38. This will allow us to immediately quantize the photon frequencies and with it the Planck photons will emerge.8) as A(r. t) + H2 (r.14b) Inserting (38. (38." #% &Qk.! = (4 " ) k .! are real.

of one-dimensional quantum oscillator Hamiltonians (with ˆ ˆ unity mass) where.4 1 " 2 k. and ! = 1.! (t)) d r H(t) = (38.9) the vectors Qk.! and Pk. we identify P k.! .13) then becomes an operator ˆ = H k. (38.2.! as a canonical coordinate. (38.! .! are operators and that they obey the same commutation relations as for a mechanical system.! (38.16) 38.! (t) and Pk.. provided we identify Pk.! (t) + # 2 k Qk.e. we may therefore resolve the vectors into two components.! and Q k.18a) where the operators 1 ˆ2 ˆ ˆ2 H Pk! + " 2 k! = k Q k! 2 ( ) (38. ! k k.! as a canonical momentum and Q k. It is then natural to make the transition to a quantum electromagnetic field ˆ . Quantization of the electromagnetic field Eq.16) has the form of a sum over independent harmonic oscillators. (38.! 2 . and Q ˆ theory by assuming P k. denoted ! " . along arbitrary but mutually perpendicular directions in this plane where the associated unit vectors are referred to as polarizations. The Hamiltonian (38.! k.! ( ) (38. k " E k! . ˆ ˆ ˆ Q ˆ P k! k "! " – Q k "! " Pk! = –i! # kk " # !! " . (k.15) Due to the condition (38.! 2 3 (Pk2. i.! as the canonical momentum and the coordinate operators respectively.18b) can be viewed as a set.! (t) lie in the plane perpendicular to k.15) then becomes H= 1 2 Pk + #2 Q2 " . as noted above. Q k.17) ˆ "H k! (38. 2 k. α).18b) may be written immediately as The energy eigenvalues of E= or !.

in fact. we have interpreted the classical quantities Ak! and A* k! as the ˆ ˆ† operators A k! and A k! in making the transition to the quantum theory. Given that our field quantities are now operators we must identify the space on (or in) which they operate. being coefficients of the electric and magnetic fields.b) in operator form as QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 . E k! k! k! k! operators. ! " \$N k! + 2& !' k .19): the Hamiltonian (38. the Fourier components of the various electromagnetic fields clearly cannot be thought of as wavefunctions in the usual quantum mechanical sense. we must identify the corresponding creation and annihilation operators. !E ˆ * and H ˆ .d) that the ˆ ˆ* corresponding quantities A k! and A k! are also operators (as are the related Fourier ˆ .18) obtaining ˆ= H #2 k A ˆ A ˆ† ˆ† ˆ " 4\$ k! k! + A k! A k! k. 26. already implicitly identified that space in writing equation (38.20) where. the occupation number representation was introduced as a (possible) mathematical convenience. We have. # 1% (38. We rewrite (38. as noted above.5 1\$ " E k! = # N k! + % !& k 2 (38. It therefore follows that the total energy is given by E= k.19a) where N k! is the number of photons (Planck light quanta) of wave vector k and polarization α. In our earlier discussion in Sec. To complete our interpretation of the electromagnetic field operators as entities acting in the space of photon occupation numbers.13c.18) operates in the occupation number space of photons.13) into (38.! and Q k. it follows from (38.12a. Particles are conserved in non-relativistic quantum mechanics and it is a matter of personal choice whether one wants to visualize a particle as: i) decreasing its "occupation number" by one in level En and increasing its "occupation number" by one in level Em or ii) making a "transition" from En to Em. !H ˆ * ).! are now operators.19b) ˆ ˆ Since P k. To do this we substitute the operator form of (38. ! ( ) (38.

23b) [ ˆa†k! .38). [ˆ ˆ a k "! " ] = 0 . ˆ = H #ˆ 1& N + k! 2 ( !) k "% \$ ' k . A ˆ [A k! k "! " ] = 0 ˆ† .25) .23a) (38.20) as (38. as defined.23c) in common with the boson commutation relations (26.! (38. (38. We may then write the Hamiltonian (38. ˆa†k"!" ] = 0 . in analogy with (26. and [ ˆa†k! . A ˆ† [A k! k "! " ] = 0 (38.22a-c) obtained earlier.21a) !!!!!!!! \$ (4 " )1/2 (2# k / ! )1/2 ˆ k! a and 1/2 ˆ † = (4 " ) ˆ ˆ A #k Q k! \$ iPk! k! 2# k ( ) (38.A ˆ † % = 2 '! ) ) #A k ! kk " !! " .6 (4 " )1/2 ˆ ˆ ˆ A = #k Q k! k! + iPk! 2# k ( ) (38.21b) !!!!!!!! % (4 " )1/2 (2# k / ! ) ˆ† a 1/2 k! ˆ† ˆ k! and a where.22b) and ˆ . a k! are dimensionless.24) where. ˆak"!" ] = #kk"#!!" .22a) (38.22c) a k! . N k! = a k! a (38.17) we find that A k! and A k! obey the commutation relations ˆ . we introduced the photon number operator ˆ ˆ† ˆ k! . k "! " & \$ (k ˆ† ˆ k! and a The corresponding commutation relations for a k! are (38. By manipulating the commutation ˆ† ˆ relations (38.21) (26.

" 2\$ k # (38. ˆ k! . 4! (38." (38.27) where ε (α) denotes the two independent polarization vectors introduced earlier and !( " ) # k = 0 .30) (Note the vacuum carries no momentum since the sum symmetry)." #i # (38. the zero point energy sum is divergent. t) = 4 ! H i –ik'r * ˆ k" (t)e ik'r – & (" )*a ˆ† . # 1% (38. t) = 4 ! E !\$ k ' (" ) –ik&r ) ˆ k" (t)e ik&r + % (" )*a ˆn % a k" (t)e ( * 2 k. One often sees the argument that the zero of energy is arbitrary and proceeds to ignore this zero point energy (or equivalently shift the zero of energy by an infinite amount to compensate for it).! (38.29) by substituting the above expressions and integrating (using orthonormality of the modes) to obtain for the total momentum operator ˆ= P k. In terms of the operators a ˆ† a k ! we may write the operator for the vector potential as ˆ (r.28a) ˆ (r. k % ( & (" )a k" (t)e ) + 2 \$ k k. t) = 4 ! A ! ' (" ) –ik&r ) ˆ k" (t)e ik&r + % (" )*a ˆ† % a k" (t)e ( * k. 2 k. We may likewise write the operators for the electric and magnetic field as ˆ (r.26) since there is no limit on k. This is a controversial point since zero-point energy might contribute to the energymomentum tensor which enters the gravitational field equations in general relativity.! ˆ " !k\$ N k! + 2& .28b) We may rewrite the classical expression for the momentum density P= 1 " d3r E # H . QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 k.! "2k 1 over k vanishes by . 26) is the zero point energy of the vacuum 1 E zero point = " !# k .7 A new feature arising here (which we did not encounter in Sec.

ˆ (S) . as ˆ (H) (t) . is related to a Schroedinger operator. a ˆ k! .31) provided we take account of the fact that a particles in the system by one (in the mode k. 38. α) and the corresponding energy by ! !" k .3 Explicit forms for the occupation number representation To complete this section we examine an explicit representation for the creation and destruction operators and the associated number eigenstates.8 It must be pointed out here that the derivation carried out here has assumed that –i! k t ˆ the operators A ). \$ 0' \$ # !' & " 0% " 0% \$ 1' \$ 0' \$ ' \$ ' !!!!!!!! !(1) = \$ 0 ' . \$ 0' \$ 0' \$ ' \$ ' \$ \$ # !' & # !' & etc.33) ˆ and a ˆ† take the form In this representation the operators a . thus ˆ k! (t) = e –iHta ˆ k ! e i Ht = e –iHte iHt –i"k t a ˆ k! a or ˆ k! (t) = e – i" k t a k! a ˆ ˆ ˆ ˆ (38. a ˆ k! reduces the number of terms in (38. We may then write the number eigenstates as " 1% \$ 0' !(0) = \$ ' . In Schroedinger k! are functions of time (through the factor e wave mechanics operators are time independent. k! e (38. !!!!!!!!!!! !(2) = \$ 1 ' . and the Let us consider the relation between the Heisenberg operator. For this case we can commute the last two corresponding Schroedinger operator. hence the operators in our previous formalism must correspond to the Heisenberg representation. To simplify the discussion we temporarily limit the discussion to a single value of k.31) ˆ k! (t) . (38.32) which is precisely the time dependence we have earlier assumed. α. where N designates the number of photons. A Heisenberg operator. !k" (N) . O O ˆ ˆ (S) i Ht ˆ (H) Ok! (t) = e –iHt O .

then have to be c ! \$ ˆ =# 0 1 &. c " 0 0 % (38. It is interesting to examine the behavior of (38.36) if we (artificially at first) limit the number of components of the occupation number eigenfunctions to two.38) .9 !0 1 # 0 0 ˆ=# a # #0 0 # "! ! 0 2 0 ! !\$ & 0 !& .24) (as is easily verified by performing the required matrix multiplications).36a) (38.38a) and ! \$ ˆ† = # 0 0 & c " 1 0 % (38. & 3 !& ! !& % 0 ! 0 # 1 ˆ† = # !!!!!!! a # 0 # "! !\$ & 0 0 0 !& 2 0 0 !& & ! ! ! !% 0 0 0 (38.38b) QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 .35) ˆ !(N) = N !(N – 1) a ˆ †!(N) = N + 1 !(N + 1) a ˆ †a ˆ !(N) = N !(N) a (38. We then have "1 % !(0) = \$ ' # 0& (38.37b) The corresponding destruction and creation operators. which for this we denote as ˆ and c ˆ † .34b) (38.36c) as well as the commutation relations (38.36b) (38.34a) The number operator is then " 0 0 0 0 !% \$ ' † ˆ \$ 0 1 0 0 !' ˆ a a= . #1 & (38.37a) " 0% ! (1) = \$ ' . \$ 0 0 2 0 !' \$ ' #! ! ! ! !& The above forms satisfy the Bose behaviors (38.(38.

principle.39b) ˆ †c ˆ+c ˆ c† = 1 . (38.. between this energy and the zero-point energy of an identical volume of space without walls is finite and depends on the dimensions of the box. c k "! " } = {cˆ ˆ k "! " k! . L z .e. c } = 0. c " 0 0 % (38.42b) Finally we note that the last form implies ˆ† ˆ† c k! c k! " = 0 .42a) We also have the relations {cˆ † ˆ† k! . the operators anticommute.4.40) i.43) i. As a result forces.39a) It then turns out that ! \$ ˆc ˆ† = # 1 0 & . c }=# kk " # !! " .10 ! \$ ˆ †c ˆ =# 0 0 &. we cannot create two particles in the same state. Suppose instead we consider the zero-point energy the vacuum would have if it were confined within a box with perfectly conducting (reflecting) walls and dimensions L x . (38. !E . c " 0 1 % (38. as expected for Fermi-Dirac operators. However it turns out that the difference.e. the over-all contribution of this term. this energy would also be infinite.g. the force on a wall perpendicular to the z direction would be F = ! ! "#E / "L z . c (38. since it was divergent. (38. e. L y . with reservations.41) {cˆ † ˆ k "! " k! . More generally we write the commutation relation as ˆ† ˆ k "! " + c ˆ k "! " c ˆ† c k! c k! = # kk " # !! " which may be denoted as (38. The Casimir effect (38. act on the walls.. Formally the . named after Casimir (1948) who first predicted them. 38.26) we ignored. as expected by the Pauli exclusion In the discussion of the vacuum zero-point energy following Eq.

g. If two of the n i vanish (38. Pergamon Press (1980). Pitaevskii.45) and the n i are integers.11 phenomena involves an interaction with the walls of the box. we have two modes. P. forces act on objects made from both dielectrics and conductors and result from the socalled Lifshitz – van der Waals interaction. 331.!!!!! k z = z . and it then follows from (38. K. (38. Lifshitz and L. Statistical Physics Part II. e. If a single n i vanishes. Finally if all three n i are non zero.47) relates the two remaining fields.!!!!! Lx Ly Lz (38. 2 See. i.44) (38. which may be thought of as a generalization of the ordinary van der Waals interaction.e. Panofksy and M.44) yields only a single field component..e. (38.. W. E0 has three non-zero components and is perpendicular to k. we have a single mode.!!!!! k y = .47) that this component must vanish. Classical Electricity and Magnetism. i. H. i. The frequencies follow from 2 2 !2 k =c k 2 2 !!!!!! = c 2 (k 2 x + k y + k z ). we must have k ! E0 = 0 (38. 1 More generally. The theory is somewhat more complex than that given here and is discussed in E. M.e. QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 . it can be resolved into two independent orthogonal components.46) In addition. B Phillips. since the presence of free electrons is required to produce the conductivity that results in the reflection of the incoming waves. no fields can be present. The components of the standing wave electric field satisfying the condition that the tangential component of E vanish on the surface of the box (required in the presence of infinite conductivity) are given by2 E x = E 0x cos k x x sin k y y sin k z ze ! i" k t E y = E 0y sin k x x cos k y y sin k z ze ! i" k t E z = E 0x sin k z x sin k y y cos k z ze ! i" k t where the components of the vector k satisfy ny! n ! n ! k x = x . Pg.1 The phenomena may be regarded as one of the many phenomena in quantum electrodynamics in which finite contributions result from the careful subtraction of infinite quantities.47) in order to satisfy the free-space Maxwell equation ! " E = 0 . Addison Wesley.

49) differ in that the behavior as a function of k z is a sum in the first case and an integral in the second.! n y . In this limit we may ignore the contributions when either k x ! or ! k y vanishes and write the doubly and the remaining singly degenerate contributions to the energy as E= \$ (2 ! )2 "# LxLyLz (2 ! ) 3 LxLy # dk x \$ & # !c 2 2 ) !c 2 2 ! nz 2+ dk y ( 2 % k2 + k + + k + k x y x y . * k dk 2 k + & # # # # z # z 2 " %0 2 2 " %0 2 * n =1 2 L2 z ) z .48) 2 "# 2 ( n =1 2 + L z ' z * # On the other hand.48) and (34. 2 (38. Eq. We will assume the dimensions L x ! and ! L y are very large compared to L z and treat the quantum numbers n x . (38.3 which we may take to have the form F(k) = exp(! k 2 / k 2 c ) where k c is some (large) “cutoff wave vector” (that ultimately approaches infinity) and k = k 2 !+ " 2n2 z L2 z .! k y .51) then takes the form 3 It turns out the form of this function is not that important so long as it goes to zero sufficiently rapidly for large k and is essentially unity for small k.’s (34. To calculate the total energy in the box we must sum over all the modes under the assumption that each has an energy (1 / 2)!! k .12 We will perform the calculation at absolute zero where only the zero-point contribution to the energy of the electromagnetic oscillators is present. . In order to extract a finite result from this expression we multiply the integrand by a regularizing function F(k) that “rolls off” high momentum values. in the absence of the walls we would write the energy as E= 2\$ # "# dk x \$ # "# dk y \$ # "# dk z !c 2 2 kx + k2 y + kz . We can then write the difference between (34. (38. as continuous.49) Eq..49) (in polar coordinates) as !E = ( \$ !c + LxLy \$ " 2n2 2 z + 1 k ' 2 L z 2 \$ dk !c k 2 + k 2 .50) It turns out that even with this subtraction procedure !E is still divergent.48) and (34. (38. this involves sums over the doubly and singly degenerate modes. or equivalently k x .

differentiating (38.52).13 .53) 1 " 1/2 F(x) 2 2 2 dx x # 2 \$ n z /L z To evaluate this quantity we use the Euler-Maclaurin formula4 that formally expresses the difference between an integral and an N-dependent trapezoidal approximation as a series of the form N !1 n =1 " f(n) = #0 N dn ! f(n) (38.54) 1 1 1 !!!!!!!!! + (f(N) ! f(0)) + (f \$(N) ! f \$(0)) ! (f \$\$\$(N) ! f \$\$\$(0)) + % % %!. !!!!!!!!!!! + F(k # )k # 0 % dn z k 2 + k + ( + # # 2 + 0 2 ( 3 L2 L z 2 ' z * (38.52) where we defined f(n z ) = !!!!!!! = % ( \$ 2n2 \$ 2n2 2 2 zF z k dk k + k + * ! #0 ! ! ! L2 ' ' L2 z z * & ). Dover (1972). We can evaluate f !(n z ) analytically with the result n2# 3 f !(n z ) = " z 3 Lz from which we obtain f !(0) = 0 . QM59: Revised: 6/21/95 . n z =1 ( + (38.55) 4 M.55) twice we have (38. 19. Stegun. 2 12 720 Due to the factor F(k) the terms involving f(N) and all its derivatives vanish for large N.51) can then be written # * !cL x L y ' 1 # ) !E ! = f(0) + \$ f(n z ) % & dn z f(n z ) .51) where we changed to an integration over the dimensionless variable n z . # # 2 2 + 2 " %0 ( L L z z * ' / .\$ & ) !cL x L y \$ " 2n2 " 2n2 2 2 / z F z !E ! = k dk k + k + ( + # #/ . n z =1 ) 1 & \$ 1 " 2n2 " 2n2 2 z 3F z . Pg. " (38. Eq. Abrimowitz and I. (38. Handbook of Mathematical Functions. The term f(0) is divergent (in the absence of the cutoff) but cancels against a corresponding term in (38. 0 2" ) 2 .

b.14 f !!!(0) = " 2# 3 L3 z .1. Verify Eq.’s (38. All higher derivatives vanish.52) as !E = " !cL x L y # 2 720L3 z (38.57) The existence of this force has been confirmed experimentally.c). (38.22a. Problems 38. When the Van der Waals force theory is generalized to allow for the finite propagation velocity light. The energy shift !E then follows immediately from (38. it takes on the same position dependence for larger values of the seperation as the Casimir force.56) corresponding to an attractive force5 Fz = ! !cL x L y " 2 240L4 z . 5 Note the difference between the force obtained here and that obtained in problem 31.23a. .2.b) and (38.

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